In moving from the poetry of Thomas Gray to that of William Wordsworth, a shift in perception occurs and the age of Romantic poetry really begins. Gray emphasizes the ideas of loss and pessimism, while Wordsworth counters loss with recompense and an optimistic outlook instead of a pessimistic one. By looking at the poetic content of one of each of their works, the use that they both make of memory can be seen. However, the uses that they make contrast markedly against one another in the feelings they provoke. Gray’s utilization of memory in “An Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” emphasizes lost innocence and the impossibility of recapturing happiness. Wordsworth, on the other hand, uses the force of memory as a restorative to calm the mind and to express in poetry the recollection of an event in pleasure-inducing terms. This ability of Wordsworth’s to recreate the past pleasantly will be seen specifically in “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.” By a careful examination of these two poems and the “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads, the justification for Wordsworth’s poetry being termed “Romantic” will be proven. This proof will come in the conclusion that the way in which Wordsworth idealizes the past by connecting it to the present in a pleasant way makes it Romantic; in contrast to the pre-Romantic poetry of Gray which associated only loss and pain in the present replacing the past’s happiness.
- British Romanticism,
- Romantic literature
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